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By Hope Jahren
On Freon, Global Warming, and the Terrible Cost of Comfort
By Eric Dean Wilson
In his prelude to “After Cooling,” Eric Dean Wilson tells us that he started his research not knowing “a tank of Freon from propane.” It’s a subtle chemistry joke, but a good one. By the end of the first 20 pages, however, the reader realizes beyond a doubt that the author is very aware of everything there is to know about what we call air-conditioning. After his deftly persuasive opening argument that cutting back on machine-made cooling is the most pressing environmental task of our generation, Wilson walks us through the science of chemical coolants in detail, both the chemistry and physics of these miracle molecules, and the horrifying discovery of the havoc they wreak within the thin protective layers of the Earth’s atmosphere.
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